Minreet Kaur: Conservative London Mayoral Candidate Backtracks Anti-Farmers’ Protest Position

Shaun Bailey has retracted an earlier pledge to ban solidarity Famers’ Protest demonstrations from taking place outside the Indian High Commission in London

Minreet Kaur
April 9, 2021 | 2.5 mins

The Conservative mayoral candidate for London, Shaun Bailey, has retracted an earlier pledge to ban solidarity Famers’ Protest demonstrations from taking place outside the Indian High Commission in London.

The mayoral candidate made the comments in a meeting with the High Commissioner of India, Gaitri Issar Kumar, on March 18, according to Asian Voice magazine.

“I was delighted to meet the Indian High Commissioner, H.E. Gaitri Kumar. I underlined in our discussion that the unruly demonstrations that have taken place outside the Indian High Commission are absolutely unacceptable,” he said. 

“If necessary, this would include banning demonstrations that are deemed to put staff and visitors at risk.”

After community backlash over the undermining of the right to peaceful protests, as well as the unfounded claims of “unruly demonstrations”, Bailey backtracked and clarified his position to the Sikh Press Association:

“I fully back the right of peaceful protests anywhere in London and around the world. The right to protest is a cornerstone of our democracy. I am also committed to protecting people from violent protests without discrimination or prejudice. I know that many people in London, especially in the Sikh community, have been affected by the events on the border of Delhi. I’d like to see these issues resolved with a sense of urgency."

Protests against the Modi government by farmers across India at various border points surrounding Delhi have been ongoing for over 100 days now in what has been widely acknowledged as one of the largest protests in human history. 

Bailey’s comments as a result of a meeting with the Indian High Commission comes at a time when Sikhs in the UK and around the world have been highlighting greater foreign Indian government interference in diasporic communities. 

Councillor Kam Rai, Deputy Leader Redbridge Council, is disappointed that Bailey made his initial pledge with a limited understanding of the issue and how it impacts the local Sikh community.

“This is another example of Shaun Bailey being out of touch, if he took the time to educate himself on the Farmer’s Protests and how close it is to the heart of not only Sikhs but people of all faiths who originate from India, he would not make divisive comments like this.”

Councillor Jas Athwal, for Mayfield, London Borough of Redbridge, echoed the same sentiments. 

“Shaun Bailey’s comments reveal his ignorance and deep disregard for both the Indian and British Indian communities who are peacefully exercising their right to protest. The situation in India is deeply personal both to me and to people of Indian descent across the world. Farmers, their families, and their allies are suffering violence and upheaval and are doing all they can to have their voices heard.”

Bailey’s reference to unfounded claims of “unruly demonstrations” surprised Rai, “I joined the farmers protest in London with tens of thousands of others and it passed off peacefully, all we did was exercise our right to protest against injustice and stand in solidarity with the farmers.” 

Athwal also took part in the local demonstrations, and worries what message Bailey’s position is sending, “the right to peacefully protest is a fundamental part of our democracy and any threat to this critical freedom is unacceptable.”

Gurpreet Bhangra, Councillor for Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, sums a common feeling from many across the Sikh community, “everyone has the right to peaceful protest. Which is a basic right and protected by the law no one should be denied that right regardless of the issue”

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Minreet Kaur is an award-winning freelance journalist based in the UK. Daughter of the legendary skipping Sikh which won report of the year in 2020. She has written for BBC, Sky, The Independent, HuffPost, Al Jazeera, and The Tribune. She writes about religion, culture, communities, and human rights. You find Minreet on Twitter at @minkaur5.


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